KS is a 56 year old father of five who grew up in and resides in Southern Maryland. He is African American and has had his fair share of struggles as a black man.
Context: Black men have always been disregarded in society as less than. Throughout history, black men have been ostracized and discriminated against. The nod developed over time in communities and became a universal gesture in America. This was collected over dinner.
Collector: So what exactly is the “nod”?
KS: The nod is of huge significance between us black men. It is essentially a shared gesture among black men in which when we see each other in passing or see each other in the same space, we subtly nod at each other to indicate that we “see each other”. It’s more significant than it seems. It is a gesture of respect and recognition of each other, especially if we are in a space where we are the only black men.
Collector: Where did you learn to do this?
KS: Hmmm…. *silence* I’m honestly not quite sure. I think I just picked it up over the years and as I watched my brothers and father practice it and as I experienced more racial problems, I understood and just started doing it. It was not until I was in my teens that I realized the full meaning of the gesture. I do it to almost every black man I see, even if they don’t do it back.
Thoughts/Analysis: This is something that is both culturally and emotionally significant.
With the BLM movement very much alive and the abuse of power against black men by police officers, mutual recognition of each other’s presence and a sign of respect is necessary. This exchange reflects unity between black men and defines them closely as a folk group.
For other variations and information about the “nod”, see:
WUWM 89.7 FM | By LaToya Dennis. “The Head Nod & How It’s Used to Communicate Safety between Black Men.” WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee’s NPR, February 23, 2021. https://www.wuwm.com/arts-culture/2021-02-19/the-head-nod-how-its-used-to-communicate-safety-between-black-men.